Scrub Turkey - Alectura lathami

Scrub Turkey

The scrub or brush turkey is a permanent inhabitant of the patches of rain forest on and around Tamborine Mountain. The male scrub turkey builds a large egg incubating mound by scratching together leaf mulch and twigs from a large area into a mound typically 4m in diameter and 1-1.5 m high. After attracting the females to mate and lay their eggs in the mound, the male then tends the mound, removing or adding composting material to keep the eggs at the right temperature for incubation which happens after about 50 days. After incubation, the chick is on its own!

Scrub Turkey

The turkey chick above is one of three that have decided to live the easy life and have inhabited our shrubbery next to the bird feeder (2010 hatching). They are 6-8 weeks old. The chicks are growing fast and are already 20-25 cm long. The distinctive flag grows quickly from a few bits of wispy down to what you can see above. They can fly at a very early age, but are still very vulnerable to predators.

Scrub Turkey Mound

The scrub turkey can be a menace in the garden as it scratches around garden beds looking for grubs and roots. However, this isn’t as bad as when a turkey decides to build a mound in your garden like the one above. This mound was built within a couple of days by the fellow in the top photo - who could well have been the chick in the second photo!!!. Nothing short of forced transportation to a new location miles away will stop the bird from scratching together every loose item in a circle up to 50m in diameter!

Scrub Turkey Chick

The little chick above has only newly emerged from the mound. It’s only the size of a small fist, but, as stated above, it will grow rapidly. Its siblings have been appearing over the last six weeks (2011 hatching), and the eldest is already flaunting a decent sized flag! For those of you who have read “The Hobbit” it’s reminiscent of the introduction of the party of dwarves to Beorn!

The Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management have got some helpful hints on how your garden can co-exist with turkeys, as well as much other interesting information. If you really can’t put up with your neat garden beds starting to look like Middle East war zones, there are private contractors who will relocate the offending bird(s) for you - look in your Yellow Pages under Pest Control (N.B. this is not a service provided by the Government Department). But, be aware, nature abhors a vacuum (!), and nothing short of a desert of concrete will stop another inquisitive turkey investigating the grubs in your rose bed!

One of our correspondents, Inika, has had some success with preventing a mound from progressing by covering the mound with a tarp and bricks and piling branches on top. She also observed newly hatched chicks, like the one above, managing to fly out of harms way to an evening roost.

The aboriginal Australians and early settlers did eat the birds, but they are, of course, now protected...

See the links below for further and more detailed information on these birds.

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Last updated 6 January, 2012